What a wonderful weekend we were treated to as the hint of better weather ahead was whispered just as we were welcomed by a chilly first day of spring. I took advantage of the fabulous weather and wonderful weekend by “road tripp’n” over to White, GA to visit friends and do a bit of shooting along the way. I love the trip because it takes me through one of my favorite towns on Lookout Mountain, Mentone, AL.
Mentone was best known for it’s iconic hotel, the Mentone Springs Hotel. The hotel was built in in 1884 by Dr. Frank Caldwell and over the many years of its existence was home to visiting summer guests and numerous organizations including the Alabama State Baptists Young Peoples Union. It’s early claim of being one of the most healthful and attractive spots in the South came from its elevated view and two springs that were located on the grounds, Mineral Springs and Beauty Springs. For years to follow, the structure was the iconic centerpiece that welcomed, as well as, bid a fond farewell to all visitors heading east or west. On my first ever visit to the area I stopped in and bought a few copies of Life magazine from the items displayed at the White Elephant and it continued to be a frequent stop on my travels to the area. The hotel gained national recognition when it was listed on the National Register of Historical Places, while my dear friends Sandra and Ray Padgett operated it. It was one of the oldest hotels in the state of Alabama and named by the New York Times as one of the “1,000 Places to visit before you die.”
On March 1st the unthinkable happened and the hotel caught fire, burning to the ground along with the White Elephant, the antique and book store. Like most, including the residents of Mentone, it was unfathomable to think of the city with out its majestic lady! Current owners, Darlene and Jim Rotch, were quoted the day after, “We are heartsick and sad to announce that the Mentone Springs Hotel and the White Elephant are gone–devastated by fire. Thank God no one was hurt.”
This past weekend afforded me the first opportunity to visit Mentone after the fire and like all that had some relationship with the hotel, I was saddened to see the destruction and the remains of what was once the “majestic lady” that stood proud and tall representing the town in such a honorable fashion. Little remained of the structure other than the two iconic towering fireplaces and the base structure made of concrete and metal. When speaking with friends and residents in the town you could feel that part of their heart had been torn from their sense of self and community. Nothing can replace what once was but everyone looks forward to the next journey of what might be, when a new structure will rise from the ashes to help redefine the beauty and the heart of this beautiful mountain community.
On the final leg of the trip home, looking to continue to capture the beauty of the area, I came across an iconic symbol that forced me to stop. During my early years, barns painted with advertisements dotted the landscape of the south gracing the back roads and highways beckoning you to mystical attractions. As I rounded the corner of a two-lane highway there stood a structure that called back to that era. I have fond memories of those old barns traveling to my grandparent’s home in Georgia and it was a picture perfect flash back too beautiful to pass up. In that moment, it afforded me a breath of fresh air as I thought back to the majestic lady we will ever remember, the Mentone Springs Hotel. ENJOY!!!
Keep us in mind for any of your upcoming photographic assignments as well as any and all of your stock and art needs. Have Camera – Will Travel … Corporate, Advertising and Editorial.
Best Regards ….!!!!!
~ dennis keim ~
dK-studio / Huntsville, AL